BY KARISSA MILLER
Iredell-Statesville Board of Education members are working with Iredell County commissioners to bring broadband systems and fiber optic networks to under-served parts of the county and residents who cannot afford it.
Once schools were closed to in-person instruction in March, school districts were required to develop and deliver remote instruction. Access to reliable internet service at home remains a barrier for many students.
On Monday evening, school board members unanimously voted to approve a joint resolution with Iredell commissioners that will focus on finding grants and donations to expand high-speed internet across the county.
“The purpose of it — the why — is we are in a different world than we were six months ago,” said Superintendent Jeff James. “There are still locations throughout our county that do not have broadband connectivity, and we’ve been thrust into remote instruction.”
As James and commissioners delved into the need, they determined universal access is critical to student success. The resolution aims to put students first so that everyone can have the same education opportunities.
The resolution focuses on three main areas:
• Both boards are committed to finding alternative funding sources, including grants and donations, to expand high-speed broadband internet access to areas of the county that do not have it and for residents that cannot afford such access.
• The boards are committed to seeking legislative action and funding to promote the expansion of high-speed broadband internet access in areas of the county that currently do not have reliable access.
• The boards shall focus efforts first on expanding broadband access to the communities and residents of northern Iredell County.
In other matters, the school board voted 6-1 to shorten its combined meetings.
A combined meeting is a meeting where the school board combines two monthly meetings (committee of the whole meeting and regular board meeting) into one long monthly meeting.
Starting next year, the board’s combined meetings on January 11, March 1, and April 12, 2021, will now be one consolidated meeting, which will start at 6 p.m. rather than 3 p.m.
“Instead of covering everything twice, we can combine the committee of the whole meeting and the regular meeting,” explained board member Charles Kelly.
Kelly also explained that the school board would also have the school’s leadership team shorten the agenda as much as possible on the months that they have combined meetings scheduled.
School board member Bill Howell voted against the motion.
“I’m against having a combined (one regular) meeting. I think it’s ridiculous,” he said.
Howell said he likes having two meetings a month so that he has a week to mull over the agenda before he votes on items the following week.
Superintendent spotlights elementary students
During the superintendent’s comments, James shared a positive update and video that highlighted the first week back at full capacity for elementary school students.
“I was able out to get out to several elementary schools and everyone is happy to be back. No negative comments. However, we are concerned about grades 6-12,” James said.
The video, compiled by the district’s leadership team, features student interviews, in-class learning and elementary teacher interviews from various elementary schools.
To see the video the superintendent shared, start at 1:25:00